Cythera’s Board Advisory Service: Briefing your board on cybersecurity obligations in under 2 hours

16 Feb / 2024

In the face of rising cyber threats, the role of board members in safeguarding an organisation's digital assets and information has never been more critical. In Australia, the regulatory landscape is rapidly evolving to address the increasing cyber risks, imposing more stringent obligations on companies and their boards. This article explores the key responsibilities and obligations of board members for cyber security in Australia and introduces Cythera’s Board Advisory Service.

Cythera has launched a Board Advisory Service that provides an independent legal and cyber security specialist briefing on Board Member obligations to manage cyber security pragmatically and effectively. 

Understanding the Cybersecurity Landscape

Cyber security is no longer a technical issue that can be delegated solely to IT departments. It is a critical business risk that affects every aspect of an organisation. Board members must understand the cyber threats their organisations face and the potential impacts on their business operations, reputation, and legal obligations. This understanding is crucial for effective oversight and strategic decision-making regarding cybersecurity measures.

Legal and Regulatory Framework

In Australia, key regulatory bodies set the framework for cyber security obligations, notably ASIC and APRA. Some of these include:

  • Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC): ASIC expects board members to ensure their organisations have adequate cyber risk management measures in place. ASIC has recently successfully prosecuted multiple companies and their directors for failing to manage cyber risks adequately under the Corporations Act 2001 (Cth). 
  • Australian Prudential Regulation Authority (APRA): For organisations in the financial sector, APRA's prudential standard CPS 234 requires them to maintain robust information security controls and to notify APRA of significant cyber incidents.

The key legal instruments of note are the Privacy and Corporations Acts.

  • Privacy Act 1988 (Cth): This Act includes the Notifiable Data Breaches (NDB) scheme, requiring organisations to notify individuals and the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner (OAIC) about significant breaches of personal information that are likely to result in serious harm. Recently, draft changes to the Act have been proposed to strengthen privacy protections and introduce more stringent obligations for handling personal information with the ability of individuals to take direct action in the courts.
  • Corporations Act 2001 (Cth): This Act is fundamental to the governance of corporations in Australia, outlining the duties and responsibilities of company officers and directors. Under the Act, directors have a duty to act with care and diligence, which extends to managing cyber risks. This duty obligates board members to ensure that their organisation has adequate cyber security frameworks and practices in place to protect shareholder and customer interests. 

Key Obligations of Board Members

  • Oversight and Governance: Board members must ensure that cyber security is integrated into the corporate governance framework, with clear roles, responsibilities, and accountability for cyber risk management.
  • Risk Management: Boards are expected to understand and oversee the organisation's cyber risk landscape, ensuring that there are effective risk management policies and procedures in place to identify, assess, and mitigate cyber risks.
  • Resource Allocation: Boards must ensure that adequate resources (financial, technological, and human) are allocated to cyber security initiatives to protect the organisation's assets and information.
  • Incident Response Planning: Boards need to ensure that their organisations have robust incident response and recovery plans to manage and mitigate the impact of cyber incidents.
  • Continuous Improvement: Cyber threats are constantly evolving; thus, board members should ensure that their organisations adopt a continuous improvement approach to cyber security, regularly reviewing and updating their cyber security practices and controls.
  • Education and Awareness: Boards should promote a culture of cyber security awareness within the organisation, ensuring that all staff are educated about cyber risks and their roles in protecting the organisation's digital assets.

The obligations of board members for cyber security in Australia are significant and multifaceted. In the digital age, effective cybersecurity governance is a critical component of an organisation's overall risk management strategy. Board members must take a proactive and informed approach to cyber security, ensuring that their organisations are well-equipped to manage and mitigate cyber risks. Failure to do so not only exposes the organisation to potential financial and reputational damage but also legal and regulatory penalties. As the cyber threat landscape continues to evolve, so too must the strategies and policies employed by boards to safeguard their organisations in the digital world.

Cythera’s Board Advisory Service

Cythera offers a board report and presentation service that makes it easy to update a board with the latest insight on cyber security obligations with tailored content for your company. The engagement aims to empower board members with the knowledge and tools necessary to fulfil their cyber security responsibilities effectively. By aligning with regulatory expectations and the ACSC Essential Eight, the company can enhance its cyber resilience, safeguard its reputation, and ensure compliance with Australian cyber security standards. The engagement facilitates a proactive approach to cyber risk management, fostering a culture of continuous improvement and vigilance against cyber threats.

The team

At Cythera, we have a long history of serving high-compliance industries such as government, utilities, financial, healthcare, and legal sectors. Our experience in these heavily regulated fields means we understand the unique challenges and compliance requirements faced by these organisations. 

  • Cybersecurity Specialist Lawyer: Cythera goes beyond the technical aspects by including a third-party cybersecurity specialist lawyer in the engagement. This legal expertise ensures that your organisation's response aligns with legal requirements and minimises potential legal risks during a cyber incident.
  • Security & Compliance Principal Consultant: Cythera’s Tech Risk and Compliance team bring a deep understanding of how to achieve and maintain cyber security compliance. Our experience is in assessing a company’s current security stance and guiding organisations in pragmatically aligning their practices and capabilities with the expectations of security frameworks like the Essential Eight - ensuring comprehensive protection of critical systems and lowering the likelihood of a future attack.

The process:

1. Pre-Engagement Preparation

  • Collection of current privacy statement, data breach notification plan and incident response plan for preliminary review.
  • Initial assessment against the ACSC Essential Eight framework to identify areas of focus for the presentation.

2. Board Presentation

  • Overview of regulatory expectations, focusing on cyber security obligations under Australian law.
  • Summary findings highlighting strengths and areas for improvement arising from reviewing the company’s privacy, incident response and data breach artefacts
  • Introduction to the ACSC Essential Eight, outlining each strategy's relevance and implementation benefits.
  • Review and discussion of the Australian Institute of Company Directors (AICD) cyber security governance principles and ASIC’s cyber resilience good practices in terms of practical steps that board members should be taking to safeguard the business

3. Interactive Session

  • Q&A segment for board members to discuss specific concerns, scenarios, and clarifications.
  • Interactive discussion on enhancing cyber resilience, focusing on strategic investments, policy updates, and training needs.

4. Post-Presentation Deliverables

  • A comprehensive report summarising the presentation insights, assessment findings, and recommended actions.
  • A roadmap for addressing identified gaps in policies and plans, including prioritised improvements and timelines.

5. Follow-Up Engagement

  • Scheduled follow-up session to review progress on the implementation of recommended actions and updates to cyber security practices.

This series of articles will focus on the Essential Eight as the convenient starting point to a compliance journey, we welcome you to follow along. If you would like to organise a meeting to discuss our compliance expertise, please contact us today.


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